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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Luke Joeckel has always been a left tackle. Never played another position in high school and at Texas A&M. Never thought he'd ever be anything but one.
Now, six months after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him with the No. 2 overall pick last April, he finally is one in the NFL.
|Luke Joeckel is back at his natural position, moving to left tackle for the Jaguars.|
Joeckel was moved back to his natural position from right tackle on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Jaguars reached an agreement with the Baltimore Ravens to trade starting left tackle Eugene Monroe for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks in 2014. It's a welcome switch for the 6-foot-6, 303-pound Joeckel, who had struggled a bit at right tackle.
"My entire football career I've always been on the left side. That's just what I'm comfortable with," Joeckel said. "I tried to get adjusted to the right side through this time, though OTAs, and through training camp. It's going to be nice going over there and playing on the left side."
The Jaguars put Joeckel at right tackle because Monroe, the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft, had never played right tackle and had played well in 2012. The hope was to mimic what the San Francisco 49ers did with Joe Staley and Anthony Davis, who was a left tackle at Rutgers but is the 49ers' right tackle.
But Monroe apparently wasn't a good fit in the Jaguars' zone-blocking scheme. He hadn't played as well this season as he did in 2012 and was in the final year of his contract, so general manager Dave Caldwell opted to get something for a player he obviously didn't have in his long-range plan. Having a replacement left tackle already on the roster made the decision easier.
Joeckel never complained about playing right tackle, but he wasn't thrilled. It wasn't an easy transition, either. Everything he's done for his entire career had to be reversed, which sounds simple but takes time to adjust.
"I had to embrace the position I was in," Joeckel said. "I wanted to go out there and I wanted to be perfectly comfortable with playing right tackle and be the best player I could be for my team but it was definitely a challenge."
Joeckel worked at left tackle during the team's morning walk-through Wednesday and coach Gus Bradley said he got beat once but otherwise looked pretty good during the afternoon practice.
"I think the bright side for him to be over there [is] it's back to his natural position and I know he's excited about it," Bradley said. "He obviously thinks the world of Eugene. Eugene helped him tremendously but you could sense some excitement for Luke, as well."
Even though he's back on the left side, Joeckel said there will be an adjustment period after spending the first six months of his pro career on the right side. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert says he understands that and isn't worried, even though he has been sacked 10 times in his two starts.
"Luke is going to do a great job. I have all the confidence in the world and this team's got all the confidence in the world in Luke playing the left side," Gabbert said. "But it's going to be a change. We're going to have to get a lot of reps in practice to catch up on the missed time.
"It's a process. Eugene was my blindside guy for the last three years and he did a great job, he kept me upright. It's part of the business, it's a tough deal but at the end of the day I trust that Dave (Caldwell) and Gus (Bradley) will make the best decisions for this football team."